Space travel for billionaires is the surprise topic with bipartisan American support ' but not from Gen Z

This article was first published by The Conversation.'s Expert voices: Op-Ed and Insights was contributed by the publication.Joseph Cabosky Associate Professor of Public Relations University of North Carolina Chapel HillJuly 2021 saw Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos both fly to space in private-company-made spacecraft. This was the most prominent month for space since years. These events were met with mixed reactions.Associate professor of public relations, I study the differences in opinions between groups on topics such as entertainment, politics, and space launches. To find out how Americans feel about these launches, and more generally private spaceflight, I collaborated with The Harris Poll colleagues.According to the poll, most Americans are interested in private space and have a positive outlook on it. The exception was the younger generation, which is less optimistic about the potential benefits of galactic travels. These positive feelings are shared across all political and demographic lines, which is quite interesting. These days it is rare to find such agreement on any issue. The results indicate that space could be a common topic in the future.Related: Virgin Galactic sends Richard Branson into space on the 1st crewed flightIt's good for all, but it's best for the wealthy.Between July 23 and July 25 2021, 2,011 U.S. citizens responded to the survey questions. This was just two weeks after Branson's and Bezos launched to space. People were asked to respond to a variety of statements regarding the potential value of these launches, their motivations and who will have access. Every question was answered with support for space travel and technological advancements. These events were also seen as ego trips by respondents, which is a common view among rich people.One statement that can be used to determine whether people believe these endeavors are worthwhile was "Space travel and research are essential for the future development humanity." Seventy-four per cent of respondents agreed with this statement, with similar results across all political parties. Similar results were seen for Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin, with more than two-thirds agreeing that the recent launches of Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin are crucial to the future development and use of space travel technology.However, the results did not reflect recent talk about space as the playground for the super-rich. 58% agreed with the statement, "The launches have made me believe that ordinary people will soon be able to travel to space," However, only 80% agreed that "The launches make it seem like only the wealthy will be able go to space anytime soon" and also supported the statement "The recent launches by Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin were billionaire ego trips."About 34% of respondents felt that "Money spent in space could be better spent addressing today's issues on Earth", though the partisan divide was a little higher.Rob Jekielek (Managing Director at The Harris Poll), stated that "space travel has captured our imaginations about the future humanity," but that people worry about "taking resources away to address today's pressing problems." This sentiment was shared by most demographics and political parties, which is rare in an age where partisanship on many issues is high.Scientific beliefs and generational differencesThe survey showed that there was a lot of agreement between partisan lines. However, the survey also revealed higher levels of disagreement among age groups. Young people stood out in particular.Respondents aged 18-24 were less positive when asked if they believed that spending money on Earth or space would have a similar effect.Only 59% of the youngest people believed space travel was important for humanity. 63% felt the money could have been better spent on Earth. 78% of those aged 41-56 believe space travel is important for humanity. 80% feel that money spent on space travel could have been better spent on Earth. It is not a new fact that young people have less faith in money's ability to solve problems than older generations. The faith of younger Americans in the political system is generally lower than that of older Americans.It is a waste to have billionaires in space. And it shouldnt be possible because billionaires shouldnt exist. 23, 2021 See moreA second demographic distinction to note was the difference between those who would like to receive a COVID-19 vaccination and those who did not. 79% of people who are interested in vaccines believe that space travel is important, compared to 60% of those who oppose vaccines. Both groups agree that space travel should be considered important. However, this gap was the largest among the sample. This could be due to divergent views about science in general.Despite all the tweets and headlines praising or bashing Elon Musk, Branson, and Bezos, this survey indicates that Americans are still awestruck by space. Satellite internet, missions to Mars, and space tourism are all part of the future of space. However, it comes with high costs, climate issues, and problems associated with space junk.It will be interesting for us to see if the broad support continues, or if partisanship takes root among the younger generation.[Understand the latest developments in science, technology, and health each week. Subscribe to The Conversations science email newsletter.This article was republished by The Conversation under Creative Commons. You can read the original article.Follow Expert Voices to keep up with the debates and issues. You can also join the conversation on Facebook and Twitter. These views are the author's and may not reflect those of the publisher.